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Three Things You Need to Know Before You Travel in France

By Carolee Cameron
NABBW’s Associate for Independent Travel
Before you travel to France, it is important, even essential, to know at least three things.

First, be aware that French culture is different from American, but equally, if not more, genteel.

French people are quintessentially polite and considerate. Before you interpret their behaviors, be fully aware of what these behaviors communicate in France. These meanings are not the same as they would be in the United States.

For example, a delay in giving you your check at the end of a meal is certainly not indicative of poor service in France. Instead it is a demonstration of respect for you as a guest.A waiter would not presume to hurry you through your meal, nor force you to leave when you have finished.

In France, it is customary to request “l’addition” when you are ready to settle up and be on your way. You are welcome to stay UNTIL you say you are ready to leave.

Second, before you travel to France learn at least enough of the language to engage with people and to be polite.

carolee france wine shopStart with being able to say hello and goodbye, always with the correct formal address of ma’am or sir. And certainly be ready and present with please, thank you, and excuse me. Like this:

  • Bonjour, Madame.
  • Au revoir, Monsieur.
  • S’il vous plait.
  • Merci.
  • Pardonnez moi.

Also be prepared to ask clearly for what you want, again in French, s’il vous plait.

And continue to learn as you go, adding at least three phrases a day as you find the need for them. This will enable you to engage in at least some form of dialogue with the delightful and friendly locals who will reward you fully for your efforts to connect with them.

Third, be prepared to take your time and immerse yourself in the charming and attentive culture you will be visiting.

carolee france cafe picIt is not essential that you see everything and check off a long list of sights you have glanced at in passing.

It actually will be much better to find a place to pause or sit – in the Cathedral, in the market square, at the Café, along the harbor, in the Park, on the bridge.

As your experiences deepen through your taking the time to observe and digest the amazing sights around you—to BE where you are—your trip will gain meaning and become memorable.

Model your behavior after that of your hosts, and sit in the sun to enjoy a glass of wine or a luxuriant lunch. Know that you will return. There will be another chance to do what you do not do this time. And this time will become a part of you that will change you and enrich you in ways you can barely imagine.

ShiftingGearsFrontCover2Dr. Carolee Cameron Duckworth is co-author (with Dr. Marie Langworthy) of the book: “Shifting Gears to Your Life & Work After Retirement,” published in 2013 by New Cabady Press. Her upcoming travel book series, co-authored with Brian Lane, includes: “Your Great Trip to France,” “Your Great Trip to Italy,” “Your Great Trip to the Pacific Coast,” “Your Great Trip to the Swiss & Italian Lakes & Alps,” and “Your Great Trip to Provence & the Cote d’Azure.”

Carolee Duckworth Independent Travel Associate

Carolee Duckworth is an avid traveler, an expert trip designer, and co-author (with Brian Lane) of the books Your Great Trip to France, Your Great 5-Day Trip to Paris, and Your Great 5-Day Trip to Loire Châteaux, available on amazon.com. Coming soon: Your Great 5-Day Trip to Normandy and Your Great 5-Day Trip to the Côte d’Azur.

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